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Chronic Venous Insufficiency

A major contributor to life-threatening strokes

CHRONIC VENOUS INSUFFICIENCY - Symptoms, Risks, Treatment

Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI) occurs when the veins of the leg can’t work efficiently, which limits blood flow back to the heart. It is caused by problems in the venous wall and/or the leg valves, where blood can leak, pool, and slow down.

More than 200,000 people are diagnosed with this condition in the U.S. every year. It can be a painful condition and is chronic, meaning it lasts for years or can be lifelong. With help from a vascular specialist, you can cope with CVI and carefully manage your condition.

SYMPTOMS OF CHRONIC VENOUS INSUFFICIENCY

Symptoms of CVI can worsen and become more disabling as the disease progresses over time. These symptoms will not go away on their own and should be discussed with a doctor as soon as possible.

See a vascular specialist if you have symptoms like:

  • Newly-formed varicose veins
  • Aching or a tired feeling in your lower legs
  • Swelling in the lower legs and ankles
  • Swelling and aching in the legs after periods of standing
  • Leathery, flaking, or itching skin on the legs
  • Ulcers on the legs

The symptoms of CVI come from the pressure and swelling that results from the underlying condition. Left untreated, CVI can cause related problems like cellulitis, internal tissue damage, venous stasis ulcers, and can even contribute to the development of major life-threatening circulatory problems.

RISK FACTORS FOR CHRONIC VENOUS INSUFFICIENCY

It is estimated that 40% of all people in the U.S. have some form of Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI). It tends to occur more frequently in women than men, and more frequently in all people over age 50.

Having a family history of venous disease is a significant risk factor. If you have a family history, discuss this with your doctor in your 30s when the risk of CVI begins to increase.

Some research indicates that ligamentous laxity, a condition in the legs that can be the result of hernia surgery or having flat feet, is a contributor to CVI. In fact, there are numerous congenital body conditions that can contribute to Chronic Venous Insufficiency but wouldn’t be noticed by the average person and need a doctor’s diagnosis.

Additional risk factors include being overweight, smoking cigarettes, and not being physically active. People who have jobs with heavy lifting are more likely to be diagnosed with CVI. If you have had multiple pregnancies, you are also at a higher risk.

HOW IS Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI) Diagnosed?

Your doctor at Maryland Vascular Specialists will work with your general practitioner or other doctors to create a complete health history. In addition to doing a physical exam, your doctor may perform tests including:

  • Duplex ultrasound, which uses a combination of Doppler and conventional ultrasound to produce a two-dimensional, moving image of the blood vessels in your legs
  • Magnetic resonance venogram, a type of MRI that uses radio waves to detect obstructions deep within the body
  • CT venogram, which combines X-rays and contrast dye with computer technology, in order to map the blood flow within your legs
  • Venogram, which uses X-rays and contrast dye to reveal pooling and blockages in your veins

HOW IS IT TREATED?

Treatment for chronic venous insufficiency is most effective at the earliest stages, which is why early diagnosis is so important for this condition. Although this is a chronic disease that can’t be eliminated entirely, there are many treatment options to help you cope with CVI.

Lifestyle changes: Avoid long periods of sitting or standing. Move and keep your blood flowing about 10 times every 30 minutes during waking hours. Elevate your legs above your heart while sitting and lying down.

Weight loss: Add more moderate exercise to your day, as recommended by your doctor. Make a plan to lose weight if you are overweight.

Compression: Wear compression stockings as recommended by your doctor. Practice good skin hygiene and ensure footwear, including compression stockings, provides the right amount of support for your condition.

Antibiotics. Your doctor may recommend medication, including antibiotics, to treat related infections that come with CVI.

Nonsurgical treatments. Sclerotherapy is an in-office treatment that involves the injection of a solution into veins. It can reduce pain, prevent your condition from worsening, and improve the look of your skin. Endovenous thermal ablation is another nonsurgical option that uses a laser or radio waves to treat the vessels with minimal bleeding or bruising.

Surgical treatments. Fewer than 10% of CVI patients need surgical treatment, but if your doctor recommends surgery you may have ligation and stripping, microincision/ambulatory phlebectomy, or a vein bypass. Talk to your doctor at Maryland Vascular Specialists about these options. Get treatment for Chronic Venous Insufficiency and prevent more serious problems.

WHEN TO SEE THE DOCTOR

While CVI isn’t curable, it’s quite treatable. People with CVI can lead long, healthy lives while managing their condition. You have many options available, from lifestyle changes to nonsurgical outpatient procedures that can happen in less than an hour.

To learn more about your CVI treatment options, schedule a consultation with Maryland Vascular Specialists.

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